Advice... What to Take and What to Leave

There's no shortage of advice for writers out there. I get emails from adults who write and teens who want to write. It seems like everyone has questions and I answer them all because I'm a big believer in karma and what goes around comes around.

But while there's lots of advice, I've found that it can sometimes be contradictory. Recently a writer friend was giving a "Book Publishing 101" workshop at her local library. She asked other writers to offer advice or tips. Once I wrote mine and emailed them to her realized that there are other writers who would say something very different based upon their experience and personality. Because every writer is different, and every writer's experience unique, advice should be taken for what it is - one person's view of the publishing world and what works. Here's what I offered up:

I had never attended a writing workshop, never attended a conference, didn't have a Web site or a blog, and didn't have drawers full of manuscripts written over the course of years when I was first published. I just had one manuscript and did my homework on agents before querying.

I hear all the time about writers who attend critique groups, go to conferences, blog their hearts out, spend hours on developing their Web sites and book trailers and friending people on Facebook - all before they've even so much as finished writing a book! I think that today (unlike when when I was first published and nobody had even conceived of Facebook) so many writers get caught up in the "stuff" you can do instead of what you HAVE to do. Write a kick-ass book. Write a killer query letter. Know who reps the type of book you've written and contact them.

Nothing substitutes for focusing on the writing and being smart about your submission. The writing comes first. Being smart about querying and submissions comes second. All that other stuff is icing for a never-been-published writer. There's plenty of time once you've sold your book to blog about it, to put up a Web site, to network and get the word out there. Focusing on all that "stuff" is like picking the color of your car and the type of sound system you'll have before the motor's even been installed. I don't care how "pretty" it all looks and how "pretty" it all sounds. You need a solid motor that runs before you can get anywhere.

I'm sure there are lots of published authors who had a different experience and would offer different advice - like attend lots of conferences, join a critque group, use social media to gain attention. What are your thoughts?


  1. I've written my book and I have a few betas who are helping to critique and revise.
    I have social networking but it is mostly for personal and my book blog that I had before I started writing.
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

  2. I think that it's like saying there are specific rules on how to write etc. It's such an individual process and what works for some might not work for others. People have to do what works for them!

  3. I think that's why I've never really posted writing advice on my personal blog. Every journey is different and my way might not work for someone else. I've considered that maybe I should offer my advice--just in case--but I don't really feel all that qualified, you know?

  4. Definitely the writing has to come first. But some agents specify they won't won't consider a writer without a web presence. Others say it's a waste of time.It's a personal choice. Just keep the writing first!

  5. Thank you so much for voicing what my sub-conscience has been screaming to me. Like you I wrote my first book without belonging to anything. I had never written before so I sat at the computer days on end enjoying every moment of bringing the story in my head to life. The book was self-published, but I still send out query letters. My problem is that after people got wind that I was writing and then wrote a book the advice poured in - join a writing group, go to conferences, take a class in writing, network with Facebook and blogs. Over the past several months I have made myself sick because I tried to juggle between all the nonsense and writing, which is my desire. Thanks for shining the light!!!

  6. Well--some of those activities are craft-oriented, and some are promotion-oriented. I agree that most people don't have to worry about promotion until they've mastered their craft. (Although there are people who've gotten book deals because of their online platforms, and I certainly think blogging, for one, enables one to practice writing regularly, so it can be a combination of craft and networking.)

    Conferences and critique groups can be very craft-oriented. They are not the only way to work on craft, though. Most writing advice is of the YMMV sort!

  7. I'm a huge fan of SCBWI. Through that organization I met the members of my writing group and my agent. But what you're doing works for you, so go for it!

  8. I love reading other people's writing advice. The diversity of opinions is fantastic.

    People often ask me how to find an agent. Like you, I'm happy to share the information, whatever I know about the process. But sometimes a snarkastic voice goes off in my head: Um, well first you have to write a book. LOL!


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